Strategic Business Planning Simplified

Many differing terms, definitions, and expectations can limit the success of a Strategic Business Planning exercise. I always like to begin by clarifying terms and expectations with my clients and suggest any organization to do the same.  I utilize the following definitions for clarity:

Strategic Planning-Development of the strategic positioning of an organization or division focused on  what needs/wants the business plans to meet along with the financial requirements of the stakeholders.  Branding, customers, products, and channels of distribution strategies are all included and are informed by current business trends and market data.  This a crucial step for any organization to take and it pays big benefits. The risk is that without good follow through and implementation plans it may simply sit on the shelf.

Vision-Usually before or in combination with the Mission Statement. The Vision describes the desired future state. Often the Vision is stated in a couple of succinct sentences and informs the Mission.

Mission-This is usually in the form of a Mission Statement which succinctly states why an organization exists, what it is doing and how, along with it’s competitive advantage. This is a wonderul decision making tool that can be utilized daily in any organization as along as it doesn't simply become a word smithing exercise!

Strategic Initiatives-These come out of Strategic Planning and are a list of key initiatives the organization needs/wants to focus on in order to achieve it's Strategic Plan or positioning.  It's important to not have too many, to make sure they are not too tactical in nature, and of course that they are communicated well within the organization.

Business Planning-A comprehensive business plan that addresses the plan for sales, margin, expenses, and infrastructure usually out for 3-5 years. I usually suggest 3 only.  This plan is qualitative as well as quantitative and includes what the organization wants/needs to accomplish along with how they are going to achieve it. It's important that the qualitative has as much or more focus than the quantitative and that they are both connected well within the organization.

Operations Planning-This is the plan for areas such as facilities and logistics that support the overall strategic business plan.

Annual Budgets-The annual budgets developed to support the business plan for a one year cycle. This includes sales, margin, expenses, and inventory. 

In my practice, I focus on Strategic Business Planning which really combines Strategic Planning and Business Planning from above. It includes:

  • Strategic Planning or positioning.
  • Quantitative-Financial Plans (P&L , Balance Sheet, & Cash Flow) out 3 years only.
  • Qualitative-How will the plans will be achieved?

There are several reasons to develop a Strategic Business Plan and prior to beginning it’s important to understand the purpose and the audience for the Plan.  These include:

  • Funding is needed either for a start up or growth. Potential investors are the audience.
  • Alignment is needed to manage internally. Internal management team is the audience.
  • Buy off is needed for direction and/or financials. Board of Directors is the audience.

The following outline is a useful tool when developing a Strategic Business Plan for any Retail or Wholesale business. (Sections are usually edited or re-arranged depending on purpose, audience, and stage of growth):


    • Desired future state.

    • What wants/needs will/do you fill for your customers that are unique?
    • What does your Brand represent?
    • Who is the customer? Demographics and Psychographics
    • Who is the competition? What do they provide and how?
    • What are the past, present and expected future industry trends?
    • What makes your business different than your competitors?
  • What products will you offer at what price? How will they be assorted?
  • What channels of distribution will you use and how?
    • Bricks and Mortar
    • Web
    • Catalog
    • Wholesale
  • How will you market? How will you get and retain customers?
  • Operational and Financial Execution Plan
    • People
      • What are the current organizational issues and how will they be addressed?
    • Processes
      • What processes need to be implemented or evolved?
    • Systems
      • What systems need to be implemented or evolved?
    • Facilities
      • What facilities are needed or need to be improved or expanded?
    • Financials and Financing
      • P&L,Cash Flow,Balance Sheet
  • Potential risks and contingencies

Developing a solid business plan driven by good strategies is only the beginning. Communicating the plan, getting buy in and developing a successful way to implement and achieve the plan is critical. Please see "Six Steps to Achieving your Business Plan" and "Key Metrics" blogs and/or contact me @ I'd love to hear about your business needs.